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Kim Jong Un made first unexpected order for ICBM launch

Posted February. 20, 2023 07:34,   

Updated February. 20, 2023 07:34


North Korea announced on Sunday that an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) Hwasong-15 was launched based on Kim Jong Un’s unexpected order on Saturday to launch the missile without a pre-made plan. This was the first ICBM launch by the country following Kim’s unexpected order. It was an explicit threat that an ICBM, which can hit the U.S. mainland, could be launched any time in actual fights.

North Korea launched an ICBM at 5:22 p.m. on Saturday, nine hours and 22 minutes after receiving Kim’s order at 8 a.m. on the same day. “We will respond to hostilities against us with overwhelming actions,” Kim Yo Jong, Kim’s younger sister and Deputy Department Director of the Workers' Party of Korea, said in a briefing on Sunday. “We are not interested in dealing with South Koreans,” she added. Her comment implies additional high-level provocations, such as ICBMs, on the excuse of South Korea and the U.S.’s Deterrence Strategy Committee Table-top Exercise on Wednesday, assuming North Korea’s nuclear attack scenario and joint military exercises on March 3.

The Korean Central News Agency of North Korea reported on Sunday that the Hwasong-15 launched on Saturday hit the target in the international waters of the East Sea after reaching a maximum altitude of 5768.5 kilometers and traveling 989 kilometers in 4,015 seconds (66 minutes and 55 seconds). “The missile launched on Saturday can have a range of over 14,000 kilometers depending on its weight, which includes all U.S. territory,” Minister of Defense of Japan Yasukazu Hamada said in a press conference.

“This training was unexpectedly organized by an emergency fire combat standby order delivered in the early morning of Saturday and the order of the chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Workers' Party of Korea, Kim Jong Un, issued at 8 a.m. on the same day,” said the Korean Central News Agency. “The Central Military Commission deemed highly of the actual fighting capability of ICBM units with great mobility and preparedness for a counterattack.” The training focused on a sudden strike and verified the units’ actual fighting capability. “While North Korea has been emphasizing its capabilities for sudden attacks and concealment regarding short-range ballistic missile, it was the first time to focus on a sudden launch of an ICBM,” said a South Korean high-level government source in an over-the-phone interview with the Dong-A Ilbo. “It is a warning against the U.S. not to lower its guard.”

South Korea and the U.S. made a response by conducting a combined training exercise mobilizing the U.S. Air Force’s B-1B strategic bomber, which flew from Guam on Sunday, and South Korean Air Force’s F-35A stealth fighter and F-15K. “The North Korean regime is hung up on the development of nuclear weapons and missiles while its people are dying from foot shortage,” the presidential office condemned North Korea after a standing committee meeting of the National Security Council on Saturday. The foreign minister of G7 released a statement after a meeting of the Munich Security Conference on Saturday (local time) and condemned North Korea for “clear violations of the U.N. Security Council’s resolutions.”

Jin-Woo Shin niceshin@donga.com · Hyo-Ju Son hjson@donga.com